What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you like?
“Let’s suppose, I do this often in vocational guidance of students, they come to me and say, well, ‘we’re getting out of college and we have the faintest idea what we want to do.’ So I always ask the question, ‘what would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?’
Well, it’s so amazing as a result of our kind of educational system, crowds of students say well, we’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets, we’d like to be writers, but as everybody knows you can’t earn any money that way. Or another person says well, I’d like to live an out-of-doors life and ride horses. I said you want to teach in a riding school? Let’s go through with it. What do you want to do? When we finally got down to something, which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, you do that and forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually turn it – you could eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way to become a master of something, to be really with it. And then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don’t worry too much. That’s everybody is – somebody is interested in everything, anything you can be interested in, you will find others will. But it’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like, in order to go on spending things you don’t like, doing things you don’t like and to teach our children to follow in the same track. See what we are doing, is we’re bringing up children and educating to live the same sort of lives we are living. In order that they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing, so it’s all retch and no vomit. It never gets there. And so, therefore, it’s so important to consider this question: What do I desire?”
When I first listened to this speech by Alan Watts, I was truly inspired. In fact, I was Inspired enough to began to ponder the question myself: ‘well gosh, what is it that I enjoy doing?’ I then scrambled to find a piece of notebook paper so that I could think deeply about what I enjoyed. And that was my mistake; I grabbed the piece of notebook paper first. I had assumed I would know the answer to this perplexing question, a question to which I had yet to ever consider. And when I was taken aback by the stark realization that I had no answer, I felt shame, guilt, and above all, denial. Denial that I, the conscious living and breathing ME, did not know what he, himself wanted.
So I began searching, and to put it briefly, this search led me to discover the wonders of psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience. Had this search been enacted sooner, I surely would have received my Undergraduate Major in something entirely different. But I digress, after countless days, months, and now years (it’s a new hobby, I suggest) of exploring works from Humanities greatest thought leaders, I was led to this single conclusion: Most don’t know what they truly desire, and many never will.
The truth is, we are primarily a manifestation of our immediate environment, and our genetic predisposition. And still today, psychological researches continue to analyze and debate the role each of these play. Notwithstanding, it is certain that the genes our ancestors pasted down to us, and the environments in which we grew up in, will determine who you are to become. And if you consider deeply any decision you have ever made in the past, you will recognize that all of them were ultimately based on similar - genetic or environmental - inputs to which you have been exposed. Moreover, you will also discover that you had no control over these inputs, which means that you did not have the free will of electing the decisions you did. It has long been argued that free will is an Illusion.
Now let me tell you what I’m not trying to do by writing this: I am not writing this to convince you that free will is an illusion. Given that we each live in our own delusion, I’d have the same matter of luck in convincing the pope that little boys aren’t attractive.
I digress, back to Alan Watts. What do you desire? Well in a round about way I have told you that we cannot control our desires. So that is where I believe you are to begin. You are to begin discovering what you desire by ridding yourself of the preconceived ideas of what you should desire. Well how the heck do you do that? I’m working on that myself, but here’s where you can start (if you haven’t already).
Meditate: In part of all the clinical benefits such as reducing stress, improving sleep, increasing focus, or improving relationships; meditation can allow you to discover yourself. When you quiet the noise (and I’m poster child ADHD so If I can do it, so can you), the chatter in your head begins to fade, and slowly but surely you will begin to notice how much of your time you spend in thought, and how little of it you spend living. You will notice how thoughts and feelings are constantly raising in and out of your consciousness, like clouds cluttering the blue sky. And If you are to regard your thoughts as clouds, you will understand why we are often much happier when there is a blue sky, and the sun is shining.
Learn About Your False Beliefs: Okay, so now you’re a pro at meditating. You have a little pillow, you sit on the floor crisscrossed, light candles, you might as well be a Monk. Whoa there, not quite, let’s not put the Lululemon in meditation like we did Yoga quite yet. Meditation is far more deserving than yoga (bite me, it’s true). So false beliefs: rather than riding the emotional wave, you must learn to become the curious observer of yourself. Feeling lonely? Shy? Perhaps enraged? Why?
Noooo it’s not because of WHAT happened that caused you to feel the way you feel, correlation does not imply causation, you must learn to understand your feelings, you must learn how to dive deeper and put your rational ego to the side so that you can witness your deepest and darkest insecurities. Once you can do this, you will become emotionally intelligent, and understand what parts of you are you, and what parts of you are not you.
Stop faking it: After you spend some time meditating and observing your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, you will have shattered the illusion. At this point you are vulnerable, you are vulnerable because the concept of yourself is gone, your ego is torn and it can no longer rationalize your mistakes, cover up your flaws and insecurities; there is nothing about you that seems to be true. Or so it may seem…
The true you: You are in fact more yourself than you have ever been at this point, you have truly confronted yourself and become honest about who you are, corrected your discourse with others, and are no longer manifesting what others have told you about yourself and can anticipate on leading a life you can get behind. You will have to continue the practice of meditation, it is a practice, not a treatment, mindfulness can bring a tremendous benefit to your life. I wish you Godspeed.
I will leave you with this: if you feel content with who you are today, right now, and in this moment, consider how you would feel if you lost all of your material possessions? All your fancy cloths, jewelry, car(s), iPhone, etc.
Notice these possessions as an extension of yourself, because that is in fact what they truly are, they are an expression of you. So if you feel a slight bit of panic upon conducting this thought experiment, that means that you are in fear of loosing a part of yourself. Which is not good, sans these possessions your ego will become crumbled, brain chemistry will change, serotonin levels fluctuate, and you could become a rather depressed individual fairly quickly. And this is all because you lost a material possession… If I were you, I would not want my mental well-being to be so easily toyed with, because after all, your mind is truly all you have.
However, if you are losing your car because you lost your job and can no longer afford to support yourself, then it is in fact vital for your survival that your brain chemistry fluctuates, and you better get your act in gear. And the only way to get in gear is if you can tie the car back to you and your well-being. The car has become an extension of you, and you matter, so you don’t want to loose your sense of what matters. A prime example of someone loosing touch with what matters is people hooked on drugs, the drugs are able to make them feel okay living under a bridge, the drugs make them feel okay disrespecting themselves, and if they can’t respect their own best interest, how on earth can they respect the interest of anyone else? They can’t, and they know they can’t, so the next day they take more, why? Because the drugs have changed their brain chemistry and falsified their entire state of being. In fact once their brain stops receiving the falsified reward from the drug, they are able to think clearly and get the help they need clean their act up (shatter their delusion).
There is a trade off for each and every action, or inaction, you take. A quest for meaning may lead you down a dark path, but it may also provide the insight you’re looking for.
-Cheers, Drake A.